Cumin-Crusted Mackerel and Pan-Braised Romaine Hearts
This is a great weeknight family dinner. It cooks quickly – you’ll have dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes – and you can serve it right from the skillet. All you need is really fresh fish to go with the romaine and sweet cherry tomatoes. The trick here is to start with a hot pan so the fish skin crisps up and the cumin and garlic perfume the pan drippings. The romaine leaves will wilt fairly quickly, but the stalks will still be a little crunchy when ready to serve.
- 4 6-ounce mackerel fillets (or any white, flaky fish with skin)
- 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves and a few branches to garnish
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 6-8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 Josie's Organics romaine heart, bottom trimmed and cut into quarters long ways and then in half cross ways
- Juice from 1 lemon
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Any white fish will do. Buy what’s on sale – make sure to get fillets with skin on.
- Use ground cumin if you don’t have cumin seeds on hand – just use half as much.
- Swap out thyme for cilantro or parsley.
Lay the fish fillets on a double layer of paper towel and pat both sides dry.
In a small bowl, mix together the cumin seeds, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper. With a spoon or your fingers, sprinkle the mixture to coat each side of the fillets to create a light crust. Press into the fish until it holds. Reserve any leftover bits.
Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Place the fillets skin side down. The skin will pucker and curl up. Use a flexible fish spatula or back end of a turner to flatten. The skin will relax in just a few seconds. Cook the fillets for 7-8 minutes until the bottom edges are brown. Use the spatula and flip the fillets. Let cook another 1-2 minutes until just cooked through, but not brown. Transfer to a plate and cover.
Bring the heat down to medium and let the pan cool for 1 minute. Add the garlic slices. Cook 1-2 minutes until they start to turn a light golden color. Scrape the bottom of the skillet with the spatula to release any of the brown bits. Toss in the romaine hearts and tomatoes along with any remaining bits of the cumin crust. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the garlicky pan drippings over the romaine and tomatoes and cook 3-4 minutes until they are wilted and soft.
Place the fish fillets back in the pan. Spoon the drippings over the fish. Give a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with thyme sprigs. Serve immediately.
Dress it Up
This recipe is gorgeous on a large platter and can easily be doubled for a dinner party. Instead of individual fillets, get whole fillets at the fish market. Use an extra large skillet and cook the fish in batches. Save all the pan drippings to cook the romaine all together at the end. More lemon zest is a nice finishing touch. A light drizzle of lemon oil also gives an extra bright pop of flavor.